Skydiving and Panic Attacks

I went to Skyventure in Nashua NH today to try indoor skydiving with my teen daughter. A year ago, she flew while I watched from behind the glass wall, safe from heights and flight with my only responsibility to take ludicrous amounts of pictures.

Since I’ve declared 2010 to be my year of facing fears though, and since-THANKFULLY, the local amusement parks are closed till summer, I thought this would be a good start. Roller Coasters will be a whole other post I’m sure.  We arrived early to fill out the paperwork, purchase the DVD, take the class so we’d know what to expect.

Before long, it was our turn. We geared up in our knee and elbow pads, our jumpsuits, earplugs, goggles and helmets. We entered the anteroom overlooking the wind tunnel, and sat on a bench, still safe on this side of the glass.

And then on went the powerful fan. The first person went, and the second.  To my surprise I was actually excited to have my turn. Kudos to me.

Then I stepped, or rather allowed myself to fall forward, into the major air gust.  Hey, still not so bad.  It was physically a lot harder than I expected but I managed to stay afloat and not go into a mad spin or careen into a wall. The instructor at my side helped keep my form, and knowing his hand was never more than a few inches away helped tremendously.

But after a few seconds, I saw a few because the flight was only 90 seconds (I purchased two rounds) my nose and throat burned, as if I’d gotten water up my nose. Then the air rushing up my nose and into my mouth became suffocating. I knew I was flying into a panic attack, instead of soaring into the chamber with the grace and freedom I had imagined.  Logically I knew the lack of air was mostly a side effect of fear, not the fan, but still I counted the seconds until the blue light flashed and I could step back to the safety of the anteroom.

I spent the next few minutes before my second and final turn trying to convince myself that I could calm down, that the air was there, that my nosewouldn’t burn, that I could do this. No such luck. I got in and lasted only about 60 seconds when I admitted defeat, for now. The instructor helped float me out of the chamber.

When I got home, I watched the video and realized I didn’t look terrified so that is a step in the right direction.  And I did make it through 2 minutes and 30 seconds of the 3 minutes I paid for. That is certainly something.

I’ll try again, eventually, after I have a couple of roller coasters under my belt.